Normal Service Will Be Resumed

I was talking to my therapist about everything, because that’s what you talk to your therapist about; specifically, I was talking to her about the protests and the police brutality, about the riots and the curfews and the sense that things were, honestly, slipping further and further towards a dystopia that still feels almost fictional if you think about it too much — there’s still a pandemic out there as everything is happening, and I really can’t shake the question, what happens to the infection rate now that we’ve all started gathering in large numbers again? because that’s how my brain works — and I said, essentially, how are we supposed to not feel utterly overwhelmed by all of this?

The things is, as overwhelming as it feels, as debilitating as the totalitarian forces stepping on us slowly, the sight of the President pushing the country closer and closer to martial law because he’s a scared old racist who can’t even manage to hide how small he really is being both laughable and horrifying, as bad as this all feels right now, I don’t want it to stop feeling this hard. Yes, it’s a struggle to work right now, yes, my brain refuses to engage properly on normal tasks because I’m all too aware of everything else that’s happening, but… that’s got to be a good thing, right?

When the coronavirus started closing everything down, ending the world as we knew it, I remember thinking to myself that I didn’t want quarantine to become normalized in my head, for the simple fact that it’s not normal. Months later, that’s harder to comprehend fully because… well, it’s been months; memory fades, and while I can objectively look at the Way Things Were, or think about the millions out of work as a result of all of this, the emotional costs for everyone unable to see loved ones, the hundreds of thousands dead, it somehow did become easier to accept everything. It became the new normal.

What’s happening now can’t go the same way. We can’t accept that nightly protests, the police and the National Guard (in DC, the military, too) at war with the citizens they’re supposed to be protecting, is just the way things are now. It’s too important to surrender and accept that as a new new normal. So, overwhelmed it is.

Hold You Up To The Flames

The world is on fire.

That is, at once, a metaphor and a reasonable, realistic description of the country I live in, as I write this (the Sunday morning before this publishes, for a change; no working three weeks in advance this time). Across the country, protests against police brutality are being met with further police brutality — does it still count as irony if you’re heartbroken? — and cities are literally aflame at night as a result. The world, at least my part of it, is on fire.

I’m finding it hard to think of anything else. Perhaps I should be grateful; it’s a new obsession, something to finally push the coronavirus out of pole position. Now I have a new tragedy to be unable to stop thinking about! But even that grim humor holds no truth — the new normal had set in to the point where I’d search the news each morning and allow myself to read stories on different topics again, the COVID of it all settling into everyday background radiation. What’s happening now is an additive, not a replacement.

In a way, that makes it… maybe not worse, but certainly more layered. I support the protests, but worry that everyone there is going to get sick, that each protest is the ideologically acceptable, morally right equivalent to the spring break party petri dishes I disdained last month.

I feel tired, I feel sad, I feel overwhelmed. How could anyone not? What’s happening feels so big that it pushes out the smaller stuff, even when it’s not really small. There’s a sense of, how dare I feel sad about the dogs going back to my ex-wife who still doesn’t wear a face mask when out in public, but why should I be surprised, she also drives between states needlessly despite quarantine, but surely none of that is too small to feel, even now…?

Or perhaps it is. It’s not clear in my head right now. There’s a world burning all around me, after all.